The Government is planning to increase the special consumption tax imposed on tobacco products to raise income for the state budget and reduce the number of smokers.

Deputy Director of the Taxation Policy Department under the Ministry of Finance, Nguyen Van Tuan, said: "The Government has asked the National Assembly to raise the tax imposed on tobacco products from 65 percent to 70 percent by the end of 2018 and to 75 percent in 2019".

However, the Government should improve its efforts to prevent people from using smuggled products because it hit the State budget, Tuan said.

He predicted the draft law would help the Government claim 154 trillion VND (7.3 billion USD) in taxes for the State budget from 2015 to 2020.

Director of the Health Ministry's Medical Examination and Treatment Department, Luong Ngoc Khue, said that Vietnam had one of the highest smoking populations in the world.

He said the Vietnamese spent 22 trillion VND (1.04 billion USD) on tobacco products in 2012 and 23 trillion VND (1.09 billion USD) per year on curing diseases caused by smoking.

He said that the Government should increase the tax each year make tobacco products too expensive for Vietnamese people.

Khue said the Health Ministry aimed to reduce the rate of smokers in Vietnam from 47.4 percent to 39 percent by 2020.

In order to achieve that target, he said the Government should raise the tax imposed on tobacco products to 105 percent by 2015, 145 percent by 2018 and 155 percent by 2020.

This would reduce the demand for smoking, he added.

However, an increase in tobacco taxes was not the major reason for the increase in tobacco smuggling in Vietnam because the prices of smuggled products were 30 to 60 percent higher than domestic products, the Health Ministry representative said.

The major reason for the problem was the difference in consumer demands, Khue said.

To stop tobacco smuggling, law enforcement at border areas needed to be tightened, and tobacco stores and anti-smuggling efforts needed to be monitored, he concluded.-VNA